Improving your strategic planning and strategic management skills is fundamental for anyone aspiring to management. Unfortunately the field of strategy is often either over simplified or made overly complex.
This site is pitched at providing practical guidance on developing strategy at a level that is suitable for senior managers who are developing corporate strategy, while still being relevant for all levels of operational planning.
The “what makes a good leader” site is committed to providing you with the process, user guides and templates to ensure you achieve the results you want.
Strategic Process: Strategy as a Process
Strategic planning is a process that does not change regardless of your position in the organisation hierarchy.
The only thing that changes as you move through the organisational hierarchy is the frequency of strategic thought and the level of formality or documentation applied to the strategic planning process.
There is also an increase in the level of risk associated with your strategic decisions, the more senior you are the more risk you are taking.
The strategic planning process is a four-step process.
Strategic planning is traditionally considered to be the act of analysing your strategic environments, completing a SWOT analysis and making a strategic decision.
Where your strategic environments analysis includes your
Once you have analysed your strategic environment and identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, referred to as a
you should review your current strategic plan with a view to answering the question
“Are the issues identified in your strategic analysis or SWOT analysis addressed by your current business strategy or are there gaps?”
If we assume there are some gaps;
You need to identify your strategic options or suggested solutions to respond to the identified gaps. It is not uncommon to be attracted to or have a preference for one possible solution; however it is best to force yourself to develop several options.
Example: In a recent planning session one manager wanted to improve his teams’ ability to provide information to their customers, the senior management group quickly workshopped an internet based solution, but ended up selecting the option of giving the employees a paper copy of the required information.
Once you have list of options but before making your choice you will need to complete an internal analysis where you will identify your businesses capabilities and core competencies, or areas where you are better than your competitors, you will need to review your strategic options to determine if your organisation has the capability to implement the options and if not what would you need to do to be in a position to implement the options.
Now you have a list of gaps and a list of options on how to address the gaps.
Your planning will be completed once you make your strategic decision, determining which gaps should be addressed as a priority and which of your options you are going to select or prioritise.
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Strategic management is considered to be the last two steps of the strategic process which are portfolio management, (Program or project managing), the implementation of your strategic decisions, and reviewing the effectiveness of those strategic decisions.
Once you have completed your environmental analysis, generated options and made a strategic decision, you need to implement your chosen strategy, referred to as strategic implementation, which will require some level of change management.
Strategic management continues through implementation to reviewing how effective your planning was. You may find the option(s) you selected and implemented have not adequately addressed the gaps identified in your SWOT analysis, in which case you will need to review the selected options and make a decision on what to do next.
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Good strategic leadership is about having your radar “always on” identifying emergent changes in your macro environment or industry environment and altering your course in response to those identified environmental changes.
As a result you may need to change, on the run, your plan or revisit your strategic decisions normally this will result in subtle changes in your business direction. Very occasionally you will be required to make whole scale changes to your chosen direction.
Note: We are definitely not talking about having a knee jerk reaction or quickly jumping on a new fashionable management trend, what we are talking about is robust analysis followed by considered change in the direction of your business.
Strategic leadership is about continuously completing all four steps of the strategic process concurrently. That is continually refreshing your SWOT analysis, generating options and making choices, continually implementing strategic decisions and reviewing the effectiveness of these decisions.
For a bit of context, you are not going to make a new strategic decision everyday – but you are going to make one every time you identify something that you need to act on. The frequency of changes to your strategic plan will depend on how turbulent your market is.